BANGALORE, India, CMC – Andre Fletcher plundered a career-best unbeaten half-century as West Indies extended their imperious form by beating reigning champions Sri Lanka by seven wickets, in their Group 1 game of the Twenty20 World Cup here Sunday.
For the second time in five days, the Caribbean side produced a successful run chase, this time overhauling a paltry 123 with ten balls to spare at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Fletcher, included in the side at the expense of seamer Jerome Taylor and then promoted to the opening spot following a hamstring injury to superstar opener Chris Gayle, unfurled a superb unbeaten 84 off 64 deliveries to underpin the Windies run chase.
The right-hander clobbered six fours and five sixes, dominating a 39-run first wicket stand with Johnson Charles (10) before adding a further 55 in an unbroken fourth wicket stand with Andre Russell, whose unbeaten 20 required just eight balls.
Left-arm spinner Milinda Siriwardana, who finished with two for 33 from his over four overs, knocked over Marlon Samuels (3) and Denesh Ramdin (5) cheaply to create some nervousness for West Indies during the middle overs, but Man-of-the-Match Fletcher and Russell stayed calm to see their side to their second win.
West Indies top Group 1 with four points as the only unbeaten team but are just ahead of South Africa, Sri Lanka and England – all of whom have two points.
Sent in, Sri Lanka struggled from the outset and it was left to Thisara Perera, batting at number seven, to rescue the innings with a cameo 40 from 29 deliveries.
With his side tottering on 47 for five in the ninth over, he and captain Angelo Mathews, who made 20, propped up the innings in a 44-run, sixth wicket partnership.
Mathews, who faced 32 balls and failed to find the boundary once, top-edged a high full toss from medium pacer Dwayne Bravo to wicketkeeper Ramdin in the 17th over and Sri Lanka could only gather 31 runs from the last four overs.
The damage, however, was done up front by leg-spinner Samuel Badree who claimed three for 12 while Bravo finished with two for 20.
Left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn went wicket-less but conceded just 12 runs from his four overs, to create massive pressure throughout the innings.
Sri Lanka seemed to be getting away to a flier when Tillakaratne Dilshan (12) struck Russell for a leg-side six and a four, as the first over leaked 13 runs.
But seamer Carlos Brathwaite trapped him lbw with the first delivery of his spell in the fourth over and in the next over, Dinesh Chandimal (16) was run out after hitting Badree to cover, ill-advisedly taking off for a run and then failing to beat Charles’ throw to Ramdin.
Badree then hurt the innings with three wickets in two successive overs. He got Lahiru Thirimanne (5) to carve a catch to Fletcher at point in the seventh over and then knocked over Chamara Kapugedera (6) and Siriwardana (0) within the space of four balls in the ninth over.
Perera then struck five fours and a six – a clean blow over mid-wicket off Brathwaite – as he tried to keep the innings afloat before falling off the penultimate ball of the innings, when he picked out Russell at long on off Bravo.
With Gayle unable to open the innings after spending much of the Sri Lanka innings off the field, Fletcher stepped up to give West Indies a flying start.
He thumped the first ball of the innings from seamer Mathews to the mid-wicket boundary and followed up with a clean strike for six down the ground as the over went for 13 runs.
Fletcher kept up the momentum in the following over by classically lifting left-arm spinner Rangana Herath over deep extra cover for six and then slogging the fifth delivery to the ropes at mid-wicket.
Charles, dropped on six at long on by Kapugedera off leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay in the fourth over, never really got going and chopped on in the bowler’s next over.
Samuels lasted 12 balls before missing a wild charge at Siriwardana to be stumped at 54 for two in the ninth over and Ramdin followed soon afterward with the score on 72 for three in the 13th over, bowled essaying a desperate swing after scratching around for 13 deliveries.
With the Windies requiring 51 runs from 42 deliveries at 72 for three at the end of the 13th, Sri Lanka scented a way back only for Fletcher and Russell to dash their hopes.
Fletcher raised his fifth half-century in T20s off 37 balls in the 13th over and with West Indies in need of a lift, twice cleared the ropes down the ground off successive balls from Siriwardana in the 15th over.
He was given out caught at the wicket in the following over from seamer Dushmantha Chameera but replays showed the ball had bounced before it was taken by wicketkeeper Chandimal.
The chance was one of three given by Sri Lanka – with Russell also reprieved on nine in the 18th over – as West Indies rode their luck well en route to another win.
SRI LANKA 122 for nine off 20 overs (Thisara Perera 40, Angelo Mathews 20; Samuel Badree 3-12, Dwayne Bravo 2-20)
WEST INDIES 127 for three off 18.2 overs (Andre Fletcher 84 not out, Andre Russell 20 not out; Milinda Siriwardana 2-33)
West Indies won by 7 wickets
+D Chandimal run out 16
T Dilshan lbw b Brathwaite 12
L Thirimanne c Fletcher b Badree 5
C Kapugedera st Ramdin b Badree 6
*A Mathews c wkp Ramdin b Bravo 20
M Siriwardana c Gayle b Badree 0
T Perera c Russell b Bravo 40
N Kulasekara b Russell 7
R Herath run out 3
J Vandersay not out 0
D Chameera not out 0
Extras (lb7, w 5, nb 1) 13
TOTAL (9 wkts, 20 overs) 122
Fall of wickets: 1-20 (Dilshan, 3.1 overs), 2-32 (Chandimal, 5), 3-41 (Thirimanne, 6.1), 4-47 (Kapugedera, 8.1), 5-47 (Siriwardana, 8.4), 6-91 (Mathews, 16.1), 7-116 (Kulasekara, 18.5), 8-121 (Herath, 19.4), 9-121 (Perera, 19.5)
A Fletcher not out 84
J Charles b Vandersay 10
M Samuels st Chandimal b Siriwardana 3
+D Ramdin b Siriwardana 5
A Russell not out 20
Extras (w5) 5
TOTAL (3 wkts, 18.2 overs) 127
To bat: C Gayle, DJ Bravo, *D Sammy, C Brathwaite, S Badree, S Benn.
Fall of wickets: 1-39 (Charles, 5.2 overs), 2-54 (Samuels, 8.3), 3-72 (Ramdin, 12.5)
Bowling: Mathews 1-0-13-0, Herath 4-0-27-0, Kulasekara 2-0-17-0 (w1), Vandersay 4-1-11-1, Siriwardana 4-0-33-2, Chameera 3-0-15-0 (w2), Perera 0.2-0-11-0 (w1).
Result: West Indies won by seven wickets.
Points: West Indies 2, Sri Lanka 0.
Man-of-the-Match: Andre Fletcher.
Toss: West Indies.
Umpires: Aleem Dar, J Cloete; TV – S Fry.